Tanzania Parties Registrar Proposes Changes to Election Expenses Law to Create Fairness

Concerned about the way in which political parties are funded, the Registrar of Political Parties in Tanzania has proposed an amendment to the Political Parties Act and Election Expenses Act (2010) to create a level playing field for political actors in the country.

"With enhanced democracy in the country it is important to make changes to the Political Parties Act of 1992, which may have been overtaken by time," the Registrar of Political Parties Judge Francis Mutungi told The EastAfrican.

According to the current law, only those parties that are registered, have participated in the immediate past election and that at least one of their candidate has been elected, can get subvention from the government.

The Political Parties Act stipulates that sources of funds for political parties can be member fees, voluntary contributions, income from party investments, grants from the government and donations -- but donations from foreign organisations and individuals must be disclosed.

Subventions from the government are disbursed from an amount determined by the minister, taking into account the country's economy.

According to the Political Parties Act, 50 per cent of the funds are disbursed on the basis of the number of constituencies won and the other 50 per cent is disbursed to parties that got at least five per cent of the total number of valid votes cast.

The Registrar said his office is working on proposals to bring on board parties that are not currently receiving government subvention.

Check squandering of funds

According to the Registrar's proposals, funding to small political parties will be paid to them directly to cover overhead costs such as office rent and staff remuneration.

The amendment is meant to enhance transparency in running political parties and check squandering of the funds.

"The parties must embrace democracy in their entities before asking for democracy from the central government. We are working with the government, UNDP and UN Women to also review and build the Office of the Registrar's capacity. This progression was delayed to give way to the constitution-making process but we are now working towards having these measures in place before the next election," said Judge Mutungi.

On the issue of how expenses during elections were being monitored, Judge Mutungi referred to the Elections Expenses Act.

"The threshold has been put at a maximum of Tsh90 million ($41,000) for MPs, with the minimum set at Tsh30 million ($13,700). This goes further to curtail rich politicians who may want to pour their money into elections in a bid to gain influence," he said.

During the first multiparty elections, conflicts arose after some senior officials from different political parties, deposited the funds into their personal accounts.

Under the current law, political parties that garner seats in parliament and in the councils qualify for government subvention.

'Briefcase' parties

Benson Bana, a University of Dar es Salaam lecturer, said elections held in the country may be free but are not fair given the disparity in financing that exists among political parties.

"We need a new criterion that sees all political parties receive funding. We have argued that smaller parties should be funded or that no party should receive subvention from the government," said Dr Bana.

He said the system of allocating funding in accordance with the votes and seats that a political party garners in an election is a method used in Ghana, and has been touted as a role model.

"However, a closer look at some of the smaller parties shows that some of them are not operating as institutions but rather as 'briefcase' entities. They are not established or serious in delivering their political aspirations of providing effective representation for the masses," said Dr Bana.

He said funding of smaller parties should go hand in hand with legislation to effectively monitor them.

"There is a need to amend existing laws so that smaller political parties receive government subvention, which is taxpayers' money," said Helen Kijo-Bisimba, executive director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre.

Dr Bisimba said that there are inherent problems within small political parties, apart from the funding aspect, but funding is the biggest hindrance.

She added that most political parties are reluctant to be audited. "Even the big political parties should be properly scrutinised and audited by the Controller of Budget and the Auditor-General, because they may be using the funds for other purposes than those specified."

Dollar-millionaire donors

CCM and Chadema openly receive donations from prominent businessman Jaffer Sabodo.

During the last election, Chadema said five businessmen had funded the party but did not disclose who they were.

Although there are no reports of opposition donors being targeted by the state and benefactors of the ruling party getting privileges, the general trend is that prominent businessmen associates themselves with the ruling party.

Rostam Aziz, who was in the 2015 Forbes list as Africa's 25th richest man, with a net worth of $900 million, was a one-time CCM treasurer who was responsible for fundraising.

Mohammed Dewji, named by Forbes as the 21st richest man in Africa in 2015, is a known CCM donor.

The two men built the party's offices in Singida region. Both businessmen have also been CCM MPs for Igunga and Singida respectively before they opted out of active politics.

Source: The East African